IMO set to adopt comprehensive maritime security measures

Conference of Contracting Governments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974: 9 - 13 December 2002

A high-level Diplomatic Conference begins at IMO Headquarters in London today (Monday 9 December) to adopt a package of security measures for the international maritime and port industries. The measures represent the culmination of just over a year's intense work by IMO's Maritime Safety Committee and its Intersessional Working Group since the terrorist atrocities in the United States in September 2001.

The Conference will be invited to adopt amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea Convention (SOLAS). Among the most far-reaching of these is the proposed International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code which would be implemented through a new chapter of the Convention.

In essence, the Code takes the approach that ensuring the security of ships and port facilities is a risk management activity and that, to determine what security measures are appropriate, an assessment of the risks must be made in each particular case. The Code is designed to provide a standardized, consistent framework for evaluating risk, enabling Governments to determine the appropriate response to the level of threat and vulnerability which exists.

As the level of threat increases, the logical counteraction is to reduce vulnerability, and the Code provides several ways to do this. For ships and shipping companies, the requirements are likely to include ship security plans, ship and company security officers and certain items of equipment. Security plans and security officers for port facilities are also to be covered by the Code. Ships would be subject to a system of survey, verification, certification and control to ensure that their security measures are implemented, while port facilities would also be required to report certain security-related information to the Government concerned, which in turn would submit a list of approved port facility security plans to IMO.

The draft Code has two parts, one mandatory and one recommendatory. The mandatory part will be due to enter into force eighteen months after adoption, that is expected to be on 1 July 2004.
According to IMO Secretary-General William O'Neil, this will be an historical Conference, both from the point of view of the volume of work IMO has been able to accomplish in the short time since the 11 September attacks and also, even more importantly, from the point of view of the substance of the decisions prepared for the Conference to make.

Conference procedures
The Conference will open on Monday, 9 December 2002 at 11 a.m. The morning of the opening day will be devoted to consideration of organizational arrangements. This will take place informally at the meeting of Heads of Delegations and, subsequently, at the inaugural session of the Plenary, to adopt the agenda of the Conference, elect officers, adopt the Rules of Procedure, and establish the various Committees.
The Committee of the Whole will commence work in the afternoon of Monday, 9 December 2002, following conclusion of the Plenary and will continue to work until 4 p.m. on Wednesday, 11 December 2002. There will be brief interruptions to allow for meetings of other Committees, as may be necessary. A Drafting Committee will hold meetings in the afternoon of Tuesday, 10 and Wednesday, 11 December 2002.
The Plenary will reconvene on Thursday, 12 December to consider the reports of the Committees and adopt the proposed amendments to SOLAS, the ISPS Code and the associated Conference resolutions. The Plenary will also adopt the Final Act of the Conference for signature by SOLAS Contracting Governments. The SOLAS Contracting Governments present at the Conference will be invited to sign the Final Act of the Conference at the Conference's final session on Friday, 13 December.

IMO - the International Maritime Organization - is the United Nations Specialized Agency with responsibility for the safety of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution by ships.

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